JVG_210604_PECK

If it weren’t for a trusty landing net, Janesville’s Dave Dvorak might not have been able to land this nice largemouth bass for his son, D.J. Fishing guide and The Gazette outdoors columnist Ted Peck watched his landing net sink beneath the water recently when a client accidentally dropped it into the water.

I watched an old friend slip beneath the waves last week, gone forever.

“Davy Jones Locker” will quickly claim any object that doesn’t float when it makes an unplanned exit from the boat.

Since this immersion is unplanned, boaters seldom plan on a need to recover it. Loss will occur sometime between immediately or in a minute or so.

This old friend was a landing net. She bobbed handle-up for nearly a minute before dropping out of sight.

I didn’t realize until checking prices after rigging for the next day’s trip how costly landing nets are in the 21st century.

The client who lost this necessary tool offered the lame excuse, “I thought they were supposed to float,” when the nice walleye he insisted on landing by himself and this trusty tool both slipped away.

Signage in the boat about client’s responsibility for lost or broken gear helped avoid an uncomfortable conversation about compensation.

But the issue of how much to assess for negligence and subsequent damages still had to be addressed.

I think I paid about $50 for that net about a dozen years ago. Aluminum and nylon-coated mesh used in net construction don’t deteriorate. On the other side of the equation, tackle and fishing gear prices have skyrocketed over the past 10 years.

I told the client I thought $80 would be fair. He said he would give me $100, plus a sizable tip for putting his 11-year-old son on a limit of very nice walleyes.

Fortunately, there are always two landing nets in the boat. The smaller, short-handled net was needed to put at least a dozen more fish in the boat before the trip was over.

The “big” net had a sturdy 48-inch handle and 24-by-28-inch mesh bag. This is more than adequate when fishing Wisconsin’s non-muskie waters.

When fishing places that hold substantial specimens of our state fish, a release-friendly “cradle” is tucked away, but ready to go.

When a two-foot diameter hoop is added to a 48-inch handle, the mesh bag is a perfect tool for retrieving lures from low-hanging branches both above and below the surface.

The mesh bag is better than a boat hook for snagging a cleat when coming into a dock on a windy day. It also works just as good as a paddle when shoving a boat free after inadvertently running aground in too-shallow water.

In short, a good landing net is a perfect recovery tool for keeping you in the game—unless this is the tool that goes overboard.

When a Google search revealed replacing this net with a comparable model would cost $150-$200, preventing a similar catastrophe in the future became top priority.

Spoiler alert: landing nets do not float. At least not for long. A $4 can of insulation foam blown into the handles of my six remaining landing nets is a cheap “life jacket” insurance policy.

Because this foam expands rapidly all possible exit points should be covered prior to application of the foam. The best way to “drown proof” a net is by drilling a soda-straw sized hole in the butt cap just big enough to insert the application tube.

Have a couple strips of duct tape handy for a quick “fingertip” bandage when the application tube is removed.

If I thought that old adage about horses and barn doors applied to landing nets, you wouldn’t be reading about this $196 teachable moment.

It will be a cold day in Ashland before Benjamin and his twin brother leave the wallet for a new net.

Should this ever happen, you can bet the new net will have a collapsible handle so the net can be kept in the gun safe when not in the boat.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at tedpeck@acegroup.cc

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